Our Shortcomings Are Great, But His Mercy Is Greater

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How saddened one feels at the departure of the month of Ramadan! Blissful indeed are those whose records during Ramadan abound with righteous deeds, and miserable are those who neglected those righteous deeds in this month.

Who truly benefits from the month of Ramadan? The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said:
• “Whoever observes fasting during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

• “Whoever stands for prayers on the night of Qadr (i.e. a night of lofty rank, during which all matters are decreed) out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

• “Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadan faithfully, out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards (i.e., not for show), all his past sins will be forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Performing any one of the three deeds mentioned in these narrations will result in the forgiveness of sins. Each one, performed individually, expiates previous sins. These three deeds are: fasting the month of Ramadan, praying the Taraweeh (voluntary night prayer) during its nights and praying the optional night prayers during the Laylatul-Qadr (the Night of Divine Decree). The forgiveness of sins in return for praying during the night of Al-Qadr occurs whether or not one recognises that it is the night of Al-Qadr, whereas the first two types of deeds do require the completion of the full month in fasting, or praying the optional night prayers every night for the entire month.

The one who is negligent and careless in performing good deeds will lose out on a reward that is in proportion to his negligence. Allah The Almighty has warned those who are negligent with regards to their prayers saying (what means): {So woe to those who pray. [But] who are heedless of their prayer.} [Quran 107:4-5] This warning is for those who are negligent but still pray, so what of those who totally abandon their prayers?

Similarly, what would the case be for those who did not fast at all, though they count themselves among the Ummah (Muslim nation)? Didn’t the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) , say: “He who lives to see Ramadan and was not forgiven (i.e. due to his sin and negligence) - may Allah expel him from His mercy.” Jibreel  may  Allah  exalt  his  mention had said this to the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) , and told him to say 'Aameen' after saying it, and he  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) , complied. This is a supplication against the type of people who do not utilise the month of Ramadan as it should be utilised; it is a great season that simply passed them by, without their making an effort in it. Such people would therefore deserve to be expelled from the mercy of Allah The Almighty, because if they are so negligent during such a great season, then they will certainly be more so during other times. Many of us have numerous shortcomings regarding the etiquettes of Ramadan, its recommended acts, and even some of its obligations, for which we must repent to Allah The Almighty.

Shortcomings are inevitably found either in our prayers or our fasting, and we must ask the forgiveness of Allah The Almighty for these shortcomings and for not utilising the month as it should have been utilised. Imam Al-Hasan  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “Exert extra effort in asking for the forgiveness of Allah The Almighty, because man does not know when the mercy of Allah The Almighty will descend upon the people.” Allah The Almighty compares Tawheed (i.e. Islamic monotheism) with asking forgiveness when He Says (what means): {So know [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin…} [Quran 47:19] This is to reflect the importance of this act. Satan said, “I will destroy people by beautifying sins for them, and they will destroy me by frequently supplicating for the forgiveness of Allah The Almighty.”

Supplicating for forgiveness is the culmination of all righteous deeds; with it one should conclude their prayers, pilgrimages, optional night prayers, and social gatherings. Thus, if the gathering included the mention and remembrance of Allah The Almighty, then it would only add to its beauty, otherwise, if people were heedless within it, then this supplication would expiate their heedlessness or the minor sins that they committed during it.

Likewise, one should conclude Ramadan with supplications for forgiveness. ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Azeez  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him instructed his deputies in different regions to conclude the month with seeking and supplicating for forgiveness and paying Zakatul-Fitr, for the latter purifies the fasting person from whatever disputes he had (orally) while seeking forgiveness makes up for the imperfections that the fasting contained due to the sins that the person committed.

Indeed, fasting necessitates our seeking a great deal of forgiveness; how many a times during our fast do we indulge in evil talk and wicked sins? Some of our righteous Salaf (righteous predecessors would ask for forgiveness immediately after having performed their prayers in case they had shortcomings in them, just as a person would seek forgiveness for a sin they had committed. If this was the case with regard to their prayers, then how would the case have been regarding their sins?

Moreover, the best way to seek forgiveness is when one accompanies it with sincere repentance. Seeking forgiveness is a cure and a deterrent against repeating the sin; but those who verbally seek forgiveness yet return to their sins after Ramadan would have their repentance as well as their fasting rejected. Thus, much effort goes into seeking forgiveness sincerely, not just verbally but wholeheartedly.

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